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EARL DAUGHERTY BARNSTORMING

Earl Daugherty, Ca. 1920s, From the Film (Source: Webmaster)
Earl Daugherty, Ca. 1920s, From the Film (Source: Webmaster)

 

In 1919, Earl S. Daugherty opened his own airfield on the corner of American Avenue and Willow Street in Long Beach, CA.  Business was good; he hired instructors and bought airplanes, and put on exhibitions to attract customers.  As partner in his stunts he hired one Clarence "Ace" Bragunier to wing walk.  By 1920 he was known as “The King of Aviation” in Long Beach.

The film below is only 11:45 long. But, it is crammed with real-action examples illustrating many of the barnstormer aerial tricks of the 1920s, including flying off the roof of a building, wing walking, aerobatics and picking up objects from the ground. Scenes are filmed from the ground, as well as by cameras lashed to the wings and fuselage of one of Daugherty's aircraft. The editor of this film was not the most skilled, because contiguous sequences appear to be cut up and replaced at random. Things are fairly easy to keep straight, however.

Besides the aviation showmanship aspects, the film also provides an excellent opportunity to play the movie over and over and pay attention to what's on the ground. If you are interested in Los Angeles or Long Beach city development or architectural history, this movie is a great resource. If you see things of interest, or features you recognize on the ground, please let me KNOW and I'll include them in my commentary, below. After you start the film, hover your cursor over the screen to invoke the controls.

 

Following is a listing of the high points of the movie in Min:Sec.

0:04 The film starts and, as the camera pans right, you can read the billboard for the N.B. Blackstone Dry Goods Company building. At the time of filming in the early to mid-1920s, Blackstone was located at 249 S. Spring St., Los Angeles, thus identifying the approximate location of the next scene.

0:11-0:20 Shows the set-up for a takeoff run of Daugherty's airplane from a high rooftop nearby the Blackstone building. The airplane dips as it leaves the building, but soon gains airspeed and flies away. The wind was calm that day as indicated by the flag in the scene. To see another film of an aircraft flying off a roof, this time for business, please see John M. Miller.

0:38-0:50 The airplane spins over the Pike Amusement Park where "The Cyclone Racer" roller coaster passes beneath by as the airplane turns. The wingwalker clings to the landing gear axle without a parachute as the plane turns!

2:50 The airplane flies toward a gentleman on the ground who is holding a white hat up. A wing walker grabs the hat and the airplane zooms off. Notice the oil derricks in the background. These were part of the exploitation of the very rich and extensive Long Beach and Signal Hill oil field that produced during the 1920s.

3:20 Daugherty appears at left fastening a long strap around a cameraman lying prone along the rear fulelage of the airplane. The strap would be the only thing holding the man on the airplane in some of the later scenes. Note the crank handle on the camera. Neither of his two assistants resembles Bragunier. A wise dog chases the airplane as it taxis to take off. The takeoff is captured by a camera on the ground.

4:46 Shows a short final approach to Daugherty's airfield. It wasn't much. Of interest is the engine tappets, which stroke up and down at a frequency that is different from the camera frame rate.

5:10 An airplane enters a loop with TOWN TEMPLE painted on the bottom wings. If you have information about Town Temple, please let me KNOW.

5:43 Filmed from the rear fuselage forward past the pilot and passenger, an airplane dives toward a group of people standing on a boardwalk. The photographer or film editor used a trick to stop the film, back the airplane and replay the scene. This trick is repeated in the next couple of scenes.

6:20 Daugherty and a passenger dive on what appears to be his airfield on the corner of American Avenue and Willow Street in Long Beach, CA. Note the presence of his dome-shaped hangar building in the right of the frame and compare it to the view of the hangar at 3:40-50.

6:40 An unidentied woman appears who dons goggles and goes aloft to wing walk. At 7:01, as the airplane banks sharply left, you can see in the distance between the wings what looks like the crossed runways of a developed airport. It's not Clover Field, because Clover Field has always been a single-runway facility. as she flies sitting on the top wing, notice the torn fabric near her left hip, the result, no doubt of someone putting a foot through it.

8:12 Another woman appears on what appears to be a late fall or early spring day (note absence of tree leaves) to go wing walking. As she ascends to the top wing from her seat you can see that she carries safety cables, which she fastens to points on the wing.

9:38 The airplane lands with a woman standing on the top wing and you can read TOWN TEMPLE on the bottom wing. You can also read on the deflected rudder "Montee," who would be Ralph Montee who signed the Davis-Monthan Airfield Register twice and the Parks Airport Register once (1928-29). The camera switches to the woman applying some post-flight powder to her nose from a makeup box held by a cigar-chomping, mustachioed man with his hat on crooked. Such gratuitous scenes of women were common during the Golden Age. I know of no footage of a male pilot, for example, shaving in a mirror after a flight.

10:09 Shows a plane landing with a man clinging to the landing gear axle. The sequence is in slow motion so you can appreciate the clearance between flesh and ground.

10:19 Shows another axle rider's attempt to grab a hat from man on he ground. This time he misses. Notice the strands of ribbon in the upper right portion of the frame. The probably warned pilots of the telephone wire they were attached to.

10:47 The female wing walker attempts to get down off the wing and her cable harness tangles in her sweater. The top wing fabric appears even more tattered.

11:45 Finis.

This video was purchased in 2014 by your Webmaster as a 35mm film from an eBay supplier, converted to mp4 by a vendor, and mounted on Vimeo in 2019.

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